Patients with advanced cancer prefer that their oncologists communicate with them face-to-face with just a notepad in hand rather than repeatedly using a computer while in the exam room, results from a new study show.
A study by clinical researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, led by Ali Haider, M.D., was presented as a study abstract at the 2017 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium in San Diego in October.
The researchers sought to study the effects of examination room computers on cancer patients’ perception of physician’s compassion, communication skills and professionalism.
The researchers noted that the use of electronic health records (EHR) continues to rise in various clinical settings, yet the full effects of EHR use on physician-patient interactions remain unclear. “This study aims to compare patient perception of physician’s compassion, communication skills, and professionalism between a traditional face-to-face clinic visit with a visit where an examination room computer is used by the physician to access and document patient information.
The randomized study was conducted at an outpatient supportive care center and researchers recruited 120 adults with advanced cancer. The patients were randomly assigned to watch two standardized, three-minute videos depicting a routine physician-patient clinical encounter.
In one video, the physician is having a face-to-face consultation holding a notepad, and in the second video, the physician is in consultation using a computer. Both videos had an identical script and featured actors. Both the actors and the patients were blinded to the purpose of the study.
Seventy-two percent of patients preferred the face-to-face communication. What’s more, patients perceived physicians who communicated face-to-face without the use of computers as more compassionate, professional, and with better communication skills than physicians who used a computer in the exam room, the researchers concluded.
“This study gives us a message that patients would prefer their doctors to give them undivided attention,” Dr. Haider, assistant professor in the Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, said. “Better communication can enhance patients’ trust and satisfaction.”